Issues such as censoring the media and regulating the internet content were discussed at a public debate at the Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar in the Education City yesterday.
The event titled ‘Who should decide what you watch and hear?” was sponsored by Barwa Media. It brought together experts from various countries and backgrounds.
The speakers included award-winning musician Mark Levine who is a scholar of the modern Middle East, Islam, globalisation and popular culture; Layla Al Zubaidi, the Director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation Middle East and a specialist in media and culture; Dr Steven Dong, professor at Tsinghua University, a Chinese government spokesperson and former TV presenter; Nashwa El Darawy, a Qatari-raised Egyptian with a background in broadcast production who now works in corporate communications; Mohammed Al Delaimi, IT Executive with Qatari Diar, student mentor and former international tennis player; and Enda Nasution, the organiser of Indonesia’s first national bloggers meeting.
Jane Dutton, Al Jazeera English presenter, and former CNN and CNBC reporter, moderated the debate. Levine agreed with regulating internet content, to but said the “regulations can be used with out beneftting those in power.”
He said media all over the world including the US were facing restrictions either from the the government or from powerful corporates. Nasution said the world is witnessing “exciting times” with the emergence of the the “new media.” The concept of media is changing with the popularity of blogs, facebook etc where the audience have become participants and the consumers have become producers.
He said a “controlled society” was a better solution than controlling the internet, which has become extremely difficult.
Al Delaimi said, “Nobody can decide what you watch. Censorship is not applied. Values in the Middle East have been challenged by the new media. Some sort of control is needed.”
Nashwa said the visual media were having tremendous influence on the Arab societiese. Arab values are washed away under the impact of the western media culture. She called for effective regulations on the media to protect the young generation from its evil impact. She argued that exposing children to nudity and obcenity is a crime that is more serious than what we normally describe as crimes.
Al Zubaidi disagreed with Nashwa saying that it was difficult to define media responsibility. Any control over the media should come through a democratic dialogue. The most needed thing in the Middle East is to offer the youth an active role in the society.
Steven Dong expressed concern over commercialisation of the media all over the world including China. News has become “overacted entertainment”. “Who will represent the voiceless people all over the world?” he asked.
Several members from the audience also took part in the discussion.